This lifestyle has countless beauties- exploring foreign destinations, adventures, cultural immersion, growth, expansion…the list can go on. While it is full of beauty, it also has its challenges. One challenge is leaving loved ones behind when heading on your adventure abroad.
Since moving abroad, I’ve been fortunate for the health of my family and friends back home. I’m also extremely grateful for their support in my decision to follow my passion for the lifestyle. This support has grown throughout my time abroad. Yet, choosing this lifestyle has also brought about the challenge of being far from home for long periods and the fears of changes in health, missing important events, and an overall distance in relationships with loved ones back home. This has come paired with feelings of guilt.
During my time abroad, I’ve learned ways to nurture relationships and maintain the feelings of closeness despite the reality of living a long distance apart.
On my recent visit home, I faced my grandfather’s declining health. The heightened emotions brought to light the importance of having strategies in place to navigate this reality.
Here are my tips on how to maintain relationships back home in the digital nomad lifestyle:
1. Set up regular phone or video calls
Thanks to the virtual world, we can stay connected from a distance. Set up a cadence of phone or video calls to stay connected with family and friends. Setting these up takes communicating and being mindful of time zones. Whether weekly, biweekly, or monthly, find what works best on both ends to stay connected. If it supports, make it official with a calendar invite. Be flexible and accommodating to find the best way to keep in touch.
2. Reach out to loved ones when you think of them
This is one of my favorite practices. When someone comes to mind, I immediately send them a message to let them know I’m thinking of them and see how they are doing. These reach outs have helped me stay connected while traveling and let friends and family know they are missed.
3. Invite family and friends to visit you abroad
One of my favorite memories abroad was when my cousins visited me in Argentina. I showed them my favorite parts of Buenos Aires, taught them about Argentine culture, and introduced them to friends. We also explored new parts of Argentina together, hiking and adventuring through Patagonia (see the cover photo here). It remains a special memory.
Inviting your family and friends to meet you abroad is a beautiful way to stay connected. You can show them around the place you’ve made home or meet in a new destination to adventure together. You can also pair it with celebrating a holiday together, like meeting abroad to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. This saves you a long journey home and allows you to share a new experience with loved ones.
4. Share updates about your travels and experiences with family and friends
Keep your family and friends updated on your life abroad. They want to know about your travel experiences, adventures, whereabouts, and safety.
Ways to share updates can include:
- Regular phone and/or video calls (FaceTime, GoogleMeet, Zoom, etc)
- Group text messages (iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, etc)
- Voice note updates
- Email updates
- Shared photo albums
- Social media posts and updates
This allows friends and family to stay updated on your whereabouts and adventures. For parents, this can also provide reassurance of your safety and security. You can also inspire them to visit you abroad.
5. Send a gift or thoughtful message for birthdays and major events
Birthdays and special events have been tough to miss while living abroad. Last year, I couldn’t make a close friend’s wedding due to travel plans and distance. Friends and family have been understanding, but I’ve often felt guilt for missing these occasions. One way I’ve navigated this is by ensuring to send a thoughtful message and/or gift for special occasions that I can’t attend.
Some examples include:
- Virtual cards/Ecards
- A thoughtful letter
- A thoughtful voice note
- Sending flowers
- Virtual gift cards
- Mailing a gift to their address
A great way to make it extra special for a big event is to surprise a friend or family member with your presence. When my grandmother turned 90, our family arranged a big event for the entire family to celebrate her birthday at the Tonga Room in San Francisco. I decided to fly home from Argentina to surprise her, which was a big success. On another trip home, I surprised my sister for her birthday in early December by booking an earlier flight home for Christmas. Your presence is also a gift when living far from loved ones :).
6. Prioritize visits home
This can look unique for each individual as it can be expensive to fly home depending on your location. However, I encourage prioritizing it, especially if loved ones can’t meet you abroad. After creating a fully remote lifestyle, I set a goal to see close family and friends at least once a year. So far, I have done this by making an annual visit home for Christmas since it is a holiday when the entire family gathers and I can see loved ones in one place.
Visits home can have the challenge of limited time and the desire to see many people. One strategy that has supported me while visiting home is to pick a location and let friends know I’ll be there on X date at Y time, that I’d love to see them, and to please come by if they are free. I once did this spending the day at a favorite park in San Francisco. It worked out great with different friends stopping by throughout the day with their partners, babies, and even dogs- all those I’d missed. It was less stressful planning and a great way to see many people with limited time.
7. Make the extra effort
Relationships require nurturing. And the reality of this lifestyle is that more time is spent traveling to foreign destinations, often far from home. Yet, this does not mean your relationships have to suffer. It requires you to consciously make an effort to maintain and nurture your relationships from a distance. Using the tips above and providing your full presence for phone/video calls and visits to loved ones can support keeping these relationships strong.
This lifestyle lights a spark in my soul and brings me happiness and fulfillment, unlike anything I experienced back home. That comes with its tradeoffs, like the distance from loved ones. I just received a text update on my grandfather’s health as I write this post. This part is challenging.
The above strategies have helped me with the reality of distance, along with the reminder that I’m always a flight (maybe a connection or two) away from home. A benefit of going fully remote has also been the flexibility to take work home with me if I need to be there.
Use the above tips to stay connected with loved ones while following your passion for this adventurous lifestyle.